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Both universities I have taught at have tightly-stuctured calculus courses that follow a pattern of 3 sections of Stewart Calculus every week, with some sections afforded two days.

I find it difficult to fit 3 lectures (intended for a MWF course) into two 80-min sessions. What is an effective way to divide the material? I feel that some sectins just can't be cut in half easily.

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    $\begingroup$ What's a MWF class and what's a TuTh class? What sections don't split very well, in your perception? $\endgroup$ – Roland Mar 14 '14 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ Monday-Wednesday-Friday, Tuesday-Thursday $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Mar 14 '14 at 13:53
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I taught two sections of a course last semester, one MWF (50 mins each) and one TuTh (75 mins each). It was not great.

The main problem is not even splitting material across days. It's an issue of timing and attention. It takes much more effort on the teacher's part, both pre- and during class, to effectively engage for 75 mins. I found myself planning different activities and group work, or sometimes letting them run longer in the 75 min section. I don't think even that was good enough.

Honestly, the best thing to do is make a list of the major concepts and activities from the course and plot your days around that list. With a TuTh course, you might have to cut two or three ideas over the course of a semester, but you can give a fuller treatment of the others. For instance, with your Stewart calculus course, identify a handful of sections that could feasibly be skipped, or at least covered only cursorily. Allow yourself more time for each of the ideas you have left and work in some extra in-class activities.

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One specific problem I have with classes which meet only twice a week is that in the last few years I've been giving more frequent, lower-stakes exams. (There are reams of research suggesting that this is better for students' learning and retention in any subject.) I don't mind using up a lot of MWF class days on exams, but it's harder for two-day-a-week classes (which in my case have been MW only), with only 2/3 as many class meetings. So I've sometimes given 45 minute exams followed immediately by 30 minutes of lectures.

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  • $\begingroup$ if switching from a 3 exam M-W-F schedule it may make sense to go to a 2-exam T-TH schedule. Reason enough to stick with M-W-F for something like calculus where more exams are better for most involved... $\endgroup$ – James S. Cook Mar 31 '14 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesS.Cook: Agreed, though lately I've been giving 6-7 exams for a 15-week differential equations class. $\endgroup$ – Mark Meckes Apr 1 '14 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ Wow. That is a lot. I see you lecture on the exam days, how is that greeted by your students? $\endgroup$ – James S. Cook Apr 1 '14 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesS.Cook: I don't lecture on exam days for MWF 50-minute classes. The 2-day 75-minute lecture classes in which I've lectured on exam days have been more advanced classes. The students found it surprising, but got used to it, and I never heard any complaints. If anything, I think it helped reinforce that the exams were meant to be relatively low-stakes, and intended at least as much for learning as for assessment. $\endgroup$ – Mark Meckes Apr 1 '14 at 20:41

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